RENTON Pete Carroll says the Seahawks “oh, absolutely” expect tight end Jimmy Graham and running back Thomas Rawls to be back from major injuries in time to play in the season opener Sept. 11 against Miami.
The coach’s proclamation Thursday at the close of Seattle’s minicamp and last practice before training camp begins late next month was Carroll’s most definitive statement yet on the availability of Graham and Rawls for the entire 2016 season.
This was Graham and Carroll joking before Thursday’s minicamp practice the tight end watched, as he has throughout the offseason:
Carroll also said getting a contract extension done with top wide receiver Doug Baldwin is a “really big deal” and the Seahawks’ intend to do it before he enters what would be the final season of his contract that is paying the NFL’s co-leader in touchdown catches with a franchise-record 14 last season $4 million in 2016.
"It is a big deal. It is a big deal. It is a very serious negotiation – as they all are,” Carroll said. “But he’s done an incredible job for us. He’s been a great, great teammate. Hopefully, eventually, we’ll get something worked out. I hope it happens.
"The intent is to get him signed and secured for a good while."
Asked if he expects Baldwin to have a new deal before training camp begins on or about July 31, Carroll said:
"I don’t know that. They are meeting right now."
I was surprised how forthright the coach was in answering my question on how important it was to get Baldwin’s new deal done before this season. It suggests how highly the coach and Seahawks regard the former undrafted free agent as a team pillar as well as quarterback Russell Wilson’s trusted target.
Graham had surgery after he injured the patellar tendon in his knee in a late-November game against Pittsburgh. The $40 million tight end’s recovery has been trickier than that from a more common torn anterior cruciate ligament in the knee, but Carroll said Graham is ahead of Rawls in terms of being able to run on the field right now.
Rawls, Seattle’s replacement for retired Marshawn Lynch as its new lead back, broke his ankle and tore ligaments in a game at Baltimore in early December.
Both could begin training camp that will be begin on or about July 31 on the physically-unable-to-perform list as a precaution. But Carroll’s “absolutely” comment Thursday should quell fears either key to Seattle’s offense won’t be ready when the games get real.